by Ethel Siegel
Dear Louis Braille,
On behalf of blind people all over the world, I would like to thank you for your marvelous invention. We are very grateful because literacy gives our lives meaning. It is sad that you weren't recognized during your life, that you weren't recognized for your many accomplishments on behalf of blind people.
You had many obstacles to overcome, in spite of poor health, but you revolutionized the world for blind people -- literacy meant independence in every area of life. The system you invented helped blind people become educated and employed. Literacy enables people to keep their lives organized in every way, just as sighted people do, by keeping phone numbers, recipes, personal and business expenses in order. And, just for fun, we play games such as bingo and cards.
Braille is so versatile, it can be used in music, math, science and many different languages. Books and magazines are available in braille and, although I do read some things on tape, braille makes me feel closer to what the author is saying.
Technology has also brought the printed word to us in a phenomenal way. There are those who have said that tapes and technology will either replace braille, or lessen the need for it. There are also those with partial vision who are not even being taught braille because it is thought that braille is not needed by them. Just as when you were alive, your invention is still not without controversy. There are those who want to change the code, their reasoning being that this would make it easier.
However, Louis, you can be sure that there are many of us who are advocates for braille as the primary method of literacy for blind people. Other media may be helpful, and even beneficial, but nothing will ever replace your wonderful invention, braille, just as nothing will ever replace the printed word.
We are working to have a commemorative stamp produced in honor of your 200th birthday in 2009. I am sorry that I never met you; many others feel the same way. It is sad that you died at such a young age, without the recognition you deserved. But rest assured that braille will live forever.
Again, thank you; rest in peace, my friend.